Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture is an exciting and important field, with many people reviving traditional methods of building and others creating innovations to established practices. Kelly Hart, webmaster of the popular website www.greenhomebuilding.com, posts text and photos featuring what he discovers from around the world.

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Location: Crestone, Colorado, United States

Kelly Hart has been involved with green building concepts for much of his life. He has also worked in various fields of communication media, including still photography, cinematography, animation, video production and now website development. Kelly has lived in an earthbag/papercrete home that he built and consults about sustainable building design.

May 26, 2005

New Products Available at Green Home Building

I have tried to keep www.greenhomebuilding.com as free of commercial endorsement as possible, preferring to provide unbiased information on all aspects of the topic. It is always a delicate balance to make information available, without seeming to be favoring one product over another. However, I am frequently making choices about what to post on the site, and my discernment is part of what gives Green Home Building its unique quality. This is true not only about products but also about all of the hundreds of links I have to other websites.

I have always had a huge variety of media available to purchase through Green Home Building, especially books, since this clearly serves to educate readers about sustainable architecture and natural building. More recently I added a selection of posters and art prints that relate to vernacular architecture from around the world, since this can familiarize readers with all of these wonderful architectural forms.

Now I have added significantly to the site by providing annotated links to hundreds of other products that relate generally to the topic of "green home making." Most of these links are through an affiliate arrangement with either www.gaiam.com or www.abundantearth.com. This means that when someone clicks through and actually purchases something, I will make a small percentage on the sale as a commission. I have several reasons for doing this, despite the clearly commercial tone that it presents.

First of all, implicit in describing this particular array of products is its educational value in alerting readers to the existence of many items that they may not be aware of, and that can enhance their lives in an environmentally sound way. Whether people purchase these products or not, there is something positive to be learned.

Second, I have followed the course of Gaiam for over two decades, since its nascent years as RG&E (Real Goods & Electric), a spoof on California's PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric). They have popularized much of what has become standard renewable energy parlance, at a time when few people even knew that it was possible to generate your own electricity. Real Goods became a trusted supplier of renewable energy equipment, and then they expanded into sustainable lifestyle products. A few years ago they merged with competitor Jade Mountain to form Gaiam, so that their product line has become even greater. I trust this company to stand solidly behind the products that they sell, and to only sell products that they want to stand behind as environmentally sound.

Third, from a practical and financial standpoint, I have to be able to make a living as the webmaster for Green Home Building if I am to continue to spend the enormous amount of time it takes to keep it up to date and provide the service that the thousands of daily visitors are delighted to find. One way to do this is through selected affiliate arrangements with other on-line companies that provide valuable services to my readers.

So, here is a list of product pages that are now available at Green Home Building for your edification or benefit:

Natural Household Supplies
Natural Home Furnishings
Water Purification
Water Conservation
Air Purification
Energy Efficient Appliances
Renewable Energy Generators
Electrical Storage and Delivery
Climate Control
Energy Efficient Lighting
Gardening Supplies

May 10, 2005

Mexican Remodel Complete

As we are preparing to return to the U.S. for awhile, I want to show you how the completed remodelling project turned out on the little house we rented in Bernal, Mexico. In my last post I described how I created a roof over the open patio/courtyard. Since then I have totally enclosed the space by adding an end-wall created primarily with a huge steel window/door frame that the landlord had in his back yard. This window unit had been sitting in the weather for quite some time and was completely rusty, so it took quite a bit of restoration to make it useable. I wire brushed the whole thing, oiled all of the moving parts (two high ventilation windows, a sliding window and the door,) and painted it with a good metal primer. I even managed to get a mis-matched skeleton key to operate the door lock.

One problem with using this door and window arrangement was that once it were in place, the door is too small to allow larger objects to pass through. The "patio de servicio" is in the back yard, through this door, so if we ever want to have a clothes washing machine in there, this would be a problem. My solution to this was to mount the entire steel unit as if it were a large gate, hinged on one side and installed in such a way that if we ever want to open the entire end-wall, it would be relatively easy to do. This means that we could open up the mid-section of the house to the back yard for a party for instance, or for gardening activities.

Around this time I removed part of a concrete block wall to open up a view from our upper deck and I used some of the rubble from this to fill in areas around the window/door frame, leaving a little space at ground level for a cat door. Now that the room is enclosed it is possible to control the temperature in there to a much greater extent. There is a large screened-in vent on one side near the top of the roof, and with the openable windows and door the ventilation is pretty good. The shaded fiberglass roofing allows plenty of light to enter the room, without too much solar heat gain. We purchased one of the local hand-woven woolen bed spreads to use as a curtain across the whole end-wall, so that on sunny days we can block the sun from entering the room. In the winter we will be able to heat the space by allowing more solar gain.

The final transformation that has occurred is painting the entire exterior with tinted whitewash. This is a very inexpensive and lovely way to paint walls, especially masonry. The local approach is to mix the hydrated lime with liquid latex and water to a consistency of thin paint, and then add cement colorants for tints. The resulting paint has a wonderfully varigated and subtle pastel apprearance. Five gallons of this can be mixed for less than ten dollars.

You might compare the picture near the beginning of my last post of what this house looked like when we first rented it, with how it looks now. The difference in feeling and function is enourmous! All of this was done for under $500, and I consider it well worth the time and money.